By Chris Metcalf
During the second half of last season, Friar fans saw a small sample of what McDonald’s All-American point guard Kris Dunn was capable of on the basketball court. It was no coincidence that Providence College made a strong push in the later part of the 2012-13 season once Dunn began to settle in and adapt to the college basketball pace. He did miss the entire preseason and several weeks of the season after having surgery on a torn labrum in his right shoulder, after all. Even when Dunn made his debut for the Friars, it was clear that the strength in his shoulder was not where it needed to be to battle Big East competition every game. There would be flashes of the type of talent he possessed in every game that he played, but it became more consistent at the very end of the year and into the postseason NIT, where Providence lost in the quarterfinals to a good Baylor team. Although Senior point guard Vincent Council ran the show offensively for the Friars last year, it was Dunn that could step in and energize the team with his speed and aggressive defense.
Head coach Ed Cooley was ready to hand over the reins to his highly touted point guard immediately this season. That is because there are very few players in the college game that possess the speed, court vision, and defensive toughness that Kris Dunn can bring to his team night in and night out. The problem is that he has not been able to stay healthy. After injuring the same right shoulder in the opening exhibition game this year, the coaches and fans all feared that it could end in another surgery, ending his sophomore season before it even began. Thankfully, he took the court against Vermont prior to the big Paradise Jam tournament that Providence is playing in this weekend. He instantly became a spark off the bench and created easy opportunities for his teammates on the offensive end, while hounding the Vermont Catamounts on the defensive end. Dunn finished his season debut with eight assists and three steals in only 21 minutes. Providence will need that kind of production from him in order to win the upcoming tournament, which involves the team playing three games in four days, beginning with Vanderbilt on Friday.
The Friars and their fans have high expectations about this season, and believe they have the talent to make it to their first NCAA tournament in about a decade. However, this team is not the same without Kris Dunn on the floor. It is extremely difficult nowadays to find point guards that have a pass-first mentality when they play. In a time when players want to “pad stats” and show that they can score, there are not many point guards that make sharing the ball with teammates their number one priority. With plenty of scorers on the Friars roster, it is abundantly clear that his teammates love playing with him because Dunn is one of those rare players. The Friar faithful hope to see a healthy Kris Dunn running the show for the remainder of the year. Ed Cooley wants the team to run in transition and create easy scoring chances, and that is Dunn’s specialty with his speed and vision in the open court. In his return to action, Providence instantly improves its defense, transition game, and team chemistry. The team definitely has talent, but Kris Dunn is the X-factor that can take the Friars to the next level.